When former Auburn defensive lineman Robert “Pig” Goff talks about Pat Dye, he puts his former head coach among an elite pantheon of men. Given the role that Dye played in Goff’s life and so many of his other players, it’s easy to understand why.
Goff came to Auburn as the youngest of four sons to a single mother living in the projects in Brandenton, Florida, with little guidance or self-control. Through Dye’s strict discipline and unwillingness to bend the rules, Goff matured during his two years as a Tiger during a vulnerable time in his life before leaving the Plains and excelling professionally.
The strategy and a lifestyle Goff faced daily was one Dye embraced year after year and has proven beneficial to so many players even now that he’s gone.
“In my heart, when you talk about Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, I think about Pat Dye in that same line because of what he taught me,” Goff said. “He was always fair and honest with you. He didn’t bite his tongue; he told you what he felt. He told you what you should do. When he said it, he meant it and you believed it. If he said, ‘Run through that wall,’ you’re going to say, ‘How deep?’ You’re going to run through that wall for him. You were going to run through that wall for coach Dye.”
Goff’s senior year of high school at Bayshore delivered bad news after bad news. Not only did his football team suffer a losing season, but eventually he was kicked off the squad after getting a young woman pregnant.
Goff wanted to join the Army shortly thereafter, but his mother encouraged him to play football at a junior college in Kansas instead. After earning All-American status in his two years there, he came to Auburn, where he was quickly subjected to a demanding nature likely comparable to a military boot camp.
Whenever any player stepped out of line, Dye was sure to have that person running the stadium steps in Jordan-Hare Stadium at 5 a.m. — something Goff made a habit of doing all too frequently.
Goff remembered once getting into a scuffle in Auburn and returning to his dorm room just in time for Dye to call a team meeting. Goff braced for Dye to send him home at that moment, but Dye instead delivered the tough love that so many of his Tigers faced over the years.
“He said, ‘Get your (butt) up here. I want to know one thing, Pig: Who didn’t fight with you?’ I was like, ‘Wow. Who didn’t fight with you?’ That’s when I knew I was in the right place,” Goff said. “After they ran the heck out of me with stadiums at 5 a.m., he really wanted to know that. We’re a team — bad, good or indifferent. We’re still brothers, we’re still family and we’re still a team. That changed my life right there. That changed my life.”
Dye never hesitated to give a young man who had done wrong a second chance. That was never more publicly the case than with Otis Mounds.
Mounds had also made mistakes in his youth, but his repercussions were extreme compared to Goff’s. Mounds was arrested and convicted for selling cocaine and spent 10 months in a correctional facility as a result. Despite rushing for more than 1,800 yards in his senior season at Dillard High School in Florida, most major programs wouldn’t give Mounds the time of day.
Dye, however, chose to be Mounds’ beacon of hope.
Dye took a chance on the talented young man despite his checkered past, and the results couldn’t have been better. After famously being called to the locker room to suit up for a game in 1990, he ultimately spent five years at Auburn prior to a five-year professional career followed by 16 years in coaching. He is now an assistant coach at Howard.
Dye’s gamble on Mounds’ behalf paid dividends to the Auburn program in the years that followed. Four of Mounds’ high school teammates — Brian Robinson, Calvin Jackson, James Bostic and Frank Sanders— admired Dye’s trust in Mounds and followed Mounds to the Plains as part of what will forever be known as “The Dillard Five.”
Former Auburn walk-on Jamie Williams recalled the drive down to Florida prior to the Tigers’ big upset of the Gators in 1994. Williams was seated next to Mounds when Mounds said something that has stuck with Williams 26 years later.
“I can remember riding down the road and Otis saying, ‘That’s where I was incarcerated,’” Williams said. “That was coach Dye though. He was the only one who stuck by the commitment of that and wound up signing so many guys from Dillard. Coach Dye continued to honor his offer to Otis Mounds after he got in a little legal trouble.
“Looking back now, Otis Mounds wound up getting married and having a couple kids even when he was on the team. The kids would come to practice and play around, and I can remember his wife over there on a little exercise bicycle.”
Dye never made things easy on his players, but his drive for them to fulfill their potential made the players grow together and form bonds that have lasted decades later. He expected a lot from his players but was willing to teach people like Goff, who credited Dye with instilling in him manners and what it took to be a well-rounded man.
Goff was direct when discussing Dye’s influence, saying he thought he probably wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for his guidance. That’s part of what made the call Goff got on Monday telling him Dye had passed away so shocking; this man, who surely seemed destined to stay strong for years to come, was suddenly gone.
“I knew he was sick, but he’s such a tough, stoic old guy. I just thought he was going to pull through,” Goff said. “When I got the phone call that he died, I about passed out.”
Goff, who coached football after nine years in the NFL and is now a trainer in Palmetto, Florida, explained that there are lessons Dye taught him decades ago that he has ingrained in his kids like tough times not lasting or living with the consequences of your decisions. Goff has also been determined to pass on Dye’s advice to kids in the same position Goff was once in, so he has worked with underprivileged children to share what was already shared with him.
Dye never hesitated to stick his neck out for players when he knew they would give their all for Auburn. That impact was profound for many who joined his program with little to their names, and the mark that made on many of them will remain for the rest of their lives.
“Pat Dye is a legend, man. He’s a Hall of Fame coach. He’s like my daddy. I consider him a father. Him and (defensive coordinator) Wayne Hall, they are my daddies,” Goff said. “I appreciate everything they’d done for me. I appreciate the discipline. I appreciate the hard times. I appreciate the losses, the wins. I appreciate the camaraderie. I appreciate the love and the brotherhood.”
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